Description of Historic Place
The Grafton Street Methodist Church is located atop a hill on Grafton Street in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. This Victorian Gothic style church was designed by David Stirling and built in 1868-1869. There is a small cemetery beside the church and the remains of Reverend William Black lie beneath the church. The building, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Grafton Street Methodist Church is valued for its historical and spiritual association with Methodism and the creation of the United Church in Canada. The church is also valued for its association with renowned architect, David Stirling.
The Grafton Street Methodist Church was built in 1868-1869 and opened on November 7, 1869. The original wooden church, built in 1852, burned on February 23, 1868, leaving a small cemetery that still exists.
In 1925, the United Church of Canada was created by amalgamating Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists. The first regular service of the Presbyterian Church in Halifax was held on January 18, 1925, in the First Baptist Church, which at that time was on the corner of Spring Garden Road and Queen Street in Halifax. The new congregation was made up of those members of the nine Presbyterian Churches in existence in Halifax and its suburbs who did not want to be part of the new United Church of Canada.
As a result of the church union, Grafton Street Methodist Church was made redundant. It became the home of anti-union Presbyterians in Halifax, hence the name the Presbyterian Church of Saint David. This group of nine congregations purchased the church.
The Grafton Street Methodist Church was designed by David Stirling. Stirling was born in Galashiels, County Roxboroughshire, Scotland and immigrated to Canada about 1847. After designing many buildings in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Ontario, Stirling designed the Grafton Street Methodist Church in 1865 and had George Blaiklock, an experienced contractor, build the church. The church opened on November 7, 1869.
Designed in the Victorian Gothic style, the Grafton Street Methodist Church is a rare, if not unique, example of this style constructed in brick in the province. The front façade, to the east, is in the Decorated style, and is more typical of Stirling's later Gothic-Revival style churches than his earlier ones. Grafton Street is the older of Stirling's two surviving Halifax churches.
The Grafton Street Methodist Church is highlighted by its great front gable with tall Gothic buttresses and five detailed finials that project above the roof line. Most notably, the church was built without a steeple.
In 1951, the church hall was expanded to the rear. This expansion replaced the original Sunday School and took up a section of the Methodist burial grounds (1793-1844). As well, Reverend William Black, the founder of Methodism in Atlantic Canada, is buried beneath the Grafton Street Church.
Grafton Street Methodist Church is located in a very busy downtown area, but remains a key property in the urban streetscape. To the south of the church is a library, to the northwest a hotel, and to the east are a variety of colourful shops and eateries. The front façade of the church is very striking and dominates the block. The Grafton Street Methodist Church still holds regular services.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 263, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements relating to the Victorian Gothic style architecture of the Grafton Street Methodist Church include:
- brick construction;
- carved sandstone detail;
- wide angle of the front gable;
- tall Gothic buttresses and five fancy finials projecting above the roof line;
- Gothic style windows;
- small south side cemetery with original grave markers;
- church hall expansion in the rear;
- prominent location on a hill in the downtown core of Halifax.